CRISPR/Cas-9 mediated knock-in by homology dependent repair in the West Nile Virus vector Culex quinquefasciatus Say

Culex quinquefasciatus Say is a mosquito distributed in both tropical and subtropical regions of the world. It is a night-active, opportunistic blood-feeder and vectors many animal and human diseases, including West Nile Virus and avian malaria. Current vector control methods (e.g. physical/chemical) are increasingly ineffective; use of insecticides also imposes hazards to both human and ecosystem health. Advances in genome editing have allowed the development of genetic insect control methods, which are species-specific and, theoretically, highly effective. CRISPR/Cas9 is a bacteria-derived programmable gene editing tool that is functional in a range of species. We describe the first successful germline gene knock-in by homology dependent repair in C. quinquefasciatus. Using CRISPR/Cas9, we integrated an sgRNA expression cassette and marker gene encoding a fluorescent protein fluorophore (Hr5/IE1-DsRed, Cq7SK-sgRNA) into the kynurenine 3-monooxygenase (kmo) gene. We achieved a minimum transformation rate of 2.8%, similar to rates in other mosquito species. Precise knock-in at the intended locus was confirmed. Insertion homozygotes displayed a white eye phenotype in early-mid larvae and a recessive lethal phenotype by pupation. This work provides an efficient method for engineering C. quinquefasciatus, providing a new tool for developing genetic control tools for this vector.

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